Mohamed M. Uluso wrote a brief piece for Pambazuka News on 6 February 2013 titled “Clan Federalism Tears Somalia Apart.” Uluso argued that clan federalism only expands the problems of bad governance.0Amb David Shinn
By: Mohamud M Uluso
Somalilandsun – Clan politics, rivalry and hatred have ruined the social bond, moral principles and trust among Somalis who share a language, culture, territory, history and religion. Now, three political manifestations – secession, clan based federalism and a unitary decentralized political system – divide them and are an obstacle to the recovery of the lost nation.
The Provisional Constitution (PC) rejects secession, suggests voluntary federalism of regions while it establishes a unitary democratic central government. Respect for human rights, political and civil rights for all citizens, a free market economic system, political pluralis and promotion of peace constitute the basic foundation of the new constitution. The US diplomatic recognition of the government of Somalia gives impetus to the implementation of these goals and offers space and encouragement for internal unity and dialogue
Therefore the people of Somalia led by their farsighted and legitimate leaders have the responsibility to engage a national dialogue that aims to respond to the sentiments and anxieties underlying the three political manifestations so that a strong Somalia can bargain with the international community. In his 1963 book on Somali nationalism, Saadia Touval wrote,
“Somali nationalism stems from a feeling of national consciousness in the sense of “we” as opposed to “they” which has existed among the Somalis for many centuries. It was nurtured by tribal genealogies and traditions, by the Islamic religious ties, and by conflicts with foreign people.” This kind of exceptional Somali nationalism is now needed more than ever. Political negotiations in bad faith fail Somalia.
Today’s acrimonious relations among Somalis are in full public display. The late Said Osman Kenedid captured this sad situation when he said in his book “xusuusqor”, a Somali becomes foe of the other when clan diversity is discovered. This approximates the present social breakdown.
Clan federalism worsens the situation and tears Somalia apart. It is an overstatement, even wrong, to claim that the PC has created a federal government for Somalia. Yes, article 1(1) stipulates the establishment of the Federal Republic of Somalia (FG). The stakeholders of this FG are the 4.5 clans represented by the 275 members of the Federal Parliament (FP) and not by Federal Member States (FMS), Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama, Ras Kamboni or other factions.
In accordance with articles 48 and 49 of the PC, the FP must enact a law establishing the parameters and conditions to be used for the establishment of FMS and appoint a commission that will study the issue. The findings of the commission will determine the options. Article 49 (6) sets only one parameter: The voluntary merger of two or more regions based on the 1991 boundaries can form an FMS. In the interim, FG will represent the country and administer the regions and districts.
Clan-based federalism is against many articles of the PC. For example it is against Article 8 on the people and citizenship; Article 11 concerning equality of all citizens and prohibition of clan based discrimination; Article 21 on the freedom of movement and residence; Article 46 which prescribes that the power of self-governance begins and ends with the people. Article 142 does not recognize in name the existing FMSs and harms national interest.
To appreciate the concept of federalism in Somalia, a review of the different views, motivations and perceptions propounded by Dighil and Mirifle and Harti Darod (Puntland) for their resolute support of federalism is helpful. In 1991, some politicians suggested a federal system between the two territories united on July 1, 1960.
Hizbia Dighil and Mirifle (HDM) Party of “Dighil and Mirifle clan” proposed in 1947 a clan-based federal system later debated in 1957 and rejected by the parliament. In his paper titled “The emergence and role of political parties in the inter-river region (1989),” Prof Mohamed H. Mukhtar noted that HDM divided the Somali Italian territory into two regions: North of the Shabelle River and South of it. Sheikh Abdullahi Sheikh Mohamed (Bogodi), founder of HDM, told the Four Power Commission sent to Somalia in 1947 the following:
“My people are those who behave themselves better than others. We always prevent other people from making trouble or robbing … The other people who are not Dighil and Mirifle, they may live and stay with us, but we want them behind us recognizing the land as belonging to us and not to them. One of the three things the founder requested the Commission was that “the country in which Dighil and Mirifle live always to be regarded as belonging to them and if the government who live with them wish anything from them they want the government to be discussed with them.”
As a result, HDM federalism was for land ownership and intended to take place between Dighil and Mirifle clan and the rest. No significant power was allowed to the central Government.
In May 1998, sub clan Harti Darod decided to form a “Puntland State” composed of five regions –Mudug, Nugal, Bari, Sol and Sanag- and to make “clan federalism” the national form of government. On October 9, 2010, Mr. Mohamed Abshir Waldo published a paper on Federalism: Birth of Puntland in which he put forward three reasons why Puntland decided to predetermine a federal system for Somalia. They are: (1) to heal and overcome the fear, hatred and distrust of the bloody civil war; (2) to take a middle solution between an autocratic, centralized system of government -which is an imaginary future government, and the outright secession of Somaliland. Sanag and Sol regions are claimed by Somaliland; and (3) To emphasize district level socio economic development.
Somalis in Puntland became divided into two categories: Puntland citizens and refugees. There was no economic, social, political and legal study about the feasibility of a federal system for Somalia or preliminary discussion among Somalis. Mr. Waldo stressed that “It [the decision] was not borne out of emotion, clan sentimentalism or as resentment resulting from the clan cleansing massacre of thousands of people originating from the current Puntland regions that took place in what is now known as South-Central Somalia (SCS) mainly in Mogadishu.”
Puntland state is now in confrontation with the FG over formation of Jubbaland State which will comprise three regions-Lower Jubba, Middle Jubba and Gedo and will be under the rule of Harti, Ogaden, and Marehan as the majority group out of 38 clans in the area.
As a consequence, Bay, Bakol and Lower Shabelle regions will be under Dighil and Mirifle rule. Middle Shabelle, Hiran, and Galgudud regions will be under Hawiye rule. Togdher, North West, and Awdal regions will be under Isaq rule. In consideration of clan imagination, Mogadishu, the capital and seat of FG, will be under sub-clan Abgal-Habargidir rule. To revive HDM federalism, a preparatory conference for a new State of six regions-Bay, Bakol, Gedo, Lower Jubba, Middle Jubba and Lower Shabelle is underway in Baidoa, Bay region.
Puntland federalism aims to deal with past and future “clan cleansing” and to control the central power if ever emerges. In Somalia, “clan cleansing” takes place every day as long as clans fight and people leave their homes for new destinations. It happens in different parts of the country.
Somalia clan federalism resembles the clan division suggested by President Yuweri K. Museveni of Uganda in his letter dated July 15, 2009 for handling the Banyoro political grievance against Bafuruki in Banyuro region. Banyoro are considered an indigenous (natives) clan, while Bafuruki (migrants/settlers) – a derogatory word – are Ugandan citizens whose ancestral land is not Banyuro region even if they were born in it. The president proposed clan land ownership and ring-fencing the positions of local councils and Member of Parliament for the indigenous (native) Banyoro clan. This has raised a firestorm inside and outside Uganda because it was seen as tribalist, unpatriotic and unconstitutional and later President Museveni backtracked.
The signs of many problems associated with clan federalism like violent minority dissent within are now visible in Puntland. In fact, clan federalism rather than solving the problems of bad governance expands them. Only Ethiopia, Nigeria and South Africa practice clan based federalism in the African continent. A comparative study carried out in 2012 shows that African federalism fails for at least nine causes like a lack of commitment to democratic values and obstruction of the central government authority.
In the gloomy prospect for Somalia’s future, the observations of Saadia Touval about Somali nationalism provide pride and hope. He testified that Somali leaders were always striving to eradicate “political tribalism” because it was and still is detrimental to national harmony. In 1958, political parties with clan names were banned. He also stated that Somali leaders (northerners) gave up their privileged positions for the sake of realizing the broader nationalist goals of unifying the British and Italian territories in 1960. These kinds of patriotism are deeply rooted in the Somali culture and could re-emergence at the right moment like today.
Somali analyst MohamudM Uluso can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org